If the internet made information accessible, social media made it shareable. This is an incredible boon for civilization – except when it’s not. Because aside from cat pics, stories, and knowledge, social networks are also distributing fake news.
Fake news has become the favorite boogeyman of pundits and protestors. It has been blamed for almost everything considered bad by at least one person, such as presidential elections, wars, and celebrity scandals. But far more insidiously, legitimate and satirical articles have been labeled fake news to make people ignore them.
Whatever other individuals might think, it can be difficult to differentiate between fake news, satire sites, and opinion blogs. They can look very similar, especially when people’s minds are clouded. Too many already are. However, their minds aren’t clouded out of malice but because their online social lives, their social networks, are echo chambers. As long as long as all their friends and influencers are on one side of a political or ideological spectrum, anything on the other side will be labeled fake news.
More than ever, it’s necessary to learn what fake news truly is and what it’s not. People are imprisoned by personal bubbles and echo chambers, which prevents them from understanding the other side and turns them into bigots.
Fake news is characterized by their weak and tenuous relationship with facts. They provide readers with deliberate misinformation or hoaxes designed to create financial or political gain. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines provided a list of websites that they believe to be fake news.
On the other hand, satirical articles are primarily humor pieces. It makes fun of a person, a policy, an event, or anything under the sun and it does this to underline a point, which may or may not be obvious. Satire websites and articles, like comedians, often tell you that they’re joking once you read the About Page or the fine, italicized print. A short list of Filipino satirical websites can be found here.
Lastly, opinion pieces are based on a person’s own point of view. Unlike fake news, they are based on facts but the writers’ beliefs and interpretation can be opposed to the prevailing sentiment. They are vulnerable to being labeled fake because echo chambers make it easy to dismiss their reasoning as malicious when they point out uncomfortable facts that they believe have more relevance.
Social media has made opinions, jokes, pranks, and fakes easy to share. Don’t be duped but don’t be dismissive either. Be open-minded of others opinions, learn to spot a joke, and weigh everybody’s arguments to arrive at a satisfactory judgment.